Monthly Archives: March 2012

Do Roman Catholics have the Gospel of Christ?

On Thursday over at Parchment and Pen blog, C. Michael Patton posted an article entitled “Are Roman Catholics Saved?” In it he basically asks the question Rob Bell style, that is, asking a very complex question and not really answering it, but sort of leading you to adopt his view. He poses the question of whether RC’s are saved, and then a bit further he states

“Now, to be fair, the majority of Roman Catholics with whom I have come in contact I do not feel are true believers. But, to be fairer, the majority of Protestants (and Eastern Orthodox for that matter) with whom I have come in contact I don’t believe are true believers! It is the simple problem of nominalism. Simply confessing to be a part of any Christian tradition does not mean that one truly embraces the ideals of said tradition. Christians are those who truly believe in who Christ is and do their best to follow him.”

The glaring issue here is that brother Patton seems to have not let the centrality of the gospel enter the equation. The question is not “can a RC be saved?” The question rather is “does the RC Church have the gospel?” Remember Romans 1:16?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the powerof God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (NKJV)

(beginning of understatement) The gospel is pretty important if it is the power of God to salvation (end of understatement). It’s not a sacrament that is the power of God to salvation, it’s not a sincere commitment to a denomination or religious tradition, and the power of God to salvation is not, brother Patton, doing our “best to follow [Christ].”

Does Roman Catholicism have the Gospel of Christ, and what is it?

Because if it does not, then people who do have the gospel need to be sharing it with them, and praying for their salvation. In the RC religion, the tricky part is understanding how they teach biblical phrases with incorrect meanings underneath. Let’s take the Reformation angle to look at this. RC’s have a doctrine of “justification,” but its not the justification that the Bible teaches.

What does the Bible teach about justification? Simply put, you can’t earn it – it is a free gift given to those who place their trust in who Jesus is and what He has done on our behalf. This is another part of C. Michael Patton’s error – he asserts that faith in the right Jesus is salvation – yes and no. The Bible shows that not only must we know and believe in the true Jesus, but we must know and believe in what He has done for us. RC’s do not have the latter!

So then, justification is a one time declaration from God – a legal standing of “right/righteous” is given to us – the very standing that Jesus has and earned as a Man. How does God deal with our sinfulness? He cannot simply declare us righteous and perfect since we are anything but that. God places our sin on the sinless Jesus at the cross, and Jesus who wears our sin as if it were His own then is crushed by the punishment of God due to you and me. Perfect atonement. Romans 3:21-26, Isaiah 53:4-12 (yes, go read them).

We get His perfect standing before God, He died under our guilty standing before God, and paid for all our sin. We cannot earn or merit this gift – otherwise it is no longer a gift. Romans 11:5-6 (I’ll wait here while you read that one too).

Yet in RC we learn that in order to gain justification, we have to look past the cross-work of Jesus to something more – as if we need something else to fully complete the circuit… and what do you know? We are told that our standing with God now will depend on our response to God’s “grace.” I put quotes around grace there because in RC “grace” has a slightly different definition than what the Apostles taught – yet it makes an eternity of difference which one you adopt.

Again, Romans 11:5-6

So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

Should we have to go on any further? If Paul is not speaking clearly here, then words have no meaning. One more place I will go for now, to Romans 5:1 to find out when justification happens. The RC teaching is that justification is an ongoing process which is initiated by God, enabled by God, and granted as a gift by God on the basis of our cooperation with sacraments like faith plus baptism, confession, and the others. This is sly and deadly. Adding to the gospel of grace and unmerited favor is like adding 3 to 100 to try and make 100 more perfectly 100. So when does justification take place? At a single point in our life when God declares us perfectly righteous on the basis of Christ’s Person and work alone, or as an ongoing process which is never sure and complete until we have done enough faithful things?

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

Can’t make me say it!

After reading the Patton article, I spent some time making comments on his blog – my first comment starts at #48 here. Then I got a little more zealous and put this on Twitter: “Why I’m not Roman #Catholic -Romans 5:1 Having BEEN JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, (and how much clearer could it get?) we have peace w God… #gospel

A RC began to respond to me and use the standard lines about his Roman religion being the one true Church and the Bible being a product of it – to which I thanked him for the info, and asked what the tense of “having been justified” is in Romans 5:1. I will post the rest of our conversation here and leave you with that for now.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Letting SmokeOut @LettingSmokeOut

@Doulos2Christou It’s not about tense, but context. Bible isn’t a simple document. Can’t pick & choose readings. Have to take it as a whole.

@LettingSmokeOut does Romans 5:1mean what it says, or something different than what it says? What is the tense of the first clause?

@Doulos2Christou You miss the point. We could play scripture shoot-out all day: for every one you provide I can counter. To what gain?

@Doulos2Christou The Church existed for 300 years prior to the Bible. It put the Bible together at a Council. Thus, its the Church’s product

@Doulos2Christou That proves the fault of private interpretation and the mistake of taking scripture out of context. That’s why are are over 30K denominations from the one Church. Either one interpreter or many. Jesus never used the word “church” in plural form.

@LettingSmokeOut that’s all very interesting, your angle, but… In Ro 5:1, when are we justified in relation to the present?

Can’t make me say it!

No gospel here

Categories: Comparative Religions, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , | 23 Comments

One Breath of Hope in Death

Like your first time downhill skiing without knowing how to stop, you fly towards death – yet there stands the great God and Savior with nail-pierced hands. Even a crash is safe when Jesus waits for you at the end.

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King Christ and The Lizard King – Interpreting the Artistic Power of The Doors pt2

After my first post about The Doors, I received some interesting feedback from an intelligent, well-educated Christian who said she would not have “wasted the ink” writing about Jim Morrison in light of his wickedness. This was no hipster kiddie shooting off her mouth – this lady was there in the late 60’s and followed The Doors in person. I respect her feelings and viewpoint, yet I wonder if as Christians we were to avoid mention or interpretation of people based on their lifestyles, how would we ever speak biblical truth into a lost and dying world? We must speak with clarity and conviction about sin, never making peace with the world, but we also must address the culture in a way that glorifies Christ as King and Sovereign… and how shall we do that if we do not understand and interpret what the culture is doing?

Jim Morrison and The Doors are a key icon of the cultural revolution in the west which has taken place over the past 50+ years. The allure of their artistic power captured the world from 1967-1971, but has also captured millions and millions of young people in each generation since then. Because I love Jesus more than anything, and because He commands me to make disciples of all the nations, I therefore live to make Him known – and in the world of the arts, Jesus is unfortunately quite unknown, not-praised, not-loved and cherished and obeyed and adored as He should be. Think of the irony and craziness! The KING of the universe, the great and greatest artist of them all, and the western world has largely dismissed Him as irrelevant, even a nuisance who gets in the way of true artistic freedom. Christians, hear me – we must be able to interpret the arts and speak biblical truth into this lost community of our neighbors.

Face to Face with Hijacked Beauty

How do we articulate the interpretation of ungodly beauty – or is any beauty ungodly?

We cannot tell people that there is no talent or lovliness in the works of The Doors, (or, for that matter, Jackson Pollack, Led Zepplin, or 1,000 other artists who didn’t love Christ): that would be absurd and would belie the God-given beauty detectors with which we were all born.

People who know and appreciate art and who know good music will laugh us off if we do not have a coherent, biblical answer to these questions. If we believe that the Bible is the best lens through which to interpret our cosmos, then we should fearlessly acknowledge the beauties in the arts.

Yet the question remains for me: if a work of art was not meant to glorify God (in the mind and heart of the artist), is it then forbidden to Christians? The Bible does not give us a clear prescriptive ideal in how to walk this out – we are instead bound by biblical principals of wisdom, love, holiness, etc.

Christ is King, and none other

In the final analysis of the matter, there are far too many people who go beyond recognizing the talents of the Lizard King and place a dead poet in the place of Christ Jesus. Jim Morrison contributed very little to the building up of western civilization, and did much to tear it down in his youthful ignorance. If he died without trusting Christ Jesus, which sadly is most likely the case, then his art will be swallowed up in judgment – and even old Jim will bow to Jesus on that final Day, confessing that all beauty is Copyright Jesus Christ, circa eternity.

For Christians, we acknowledge truly alluring beauties despite their fountain. We also glory in the ultimate reality that all good and all art is breathed into life by that First Mover and Cause, the Lord and King of the Cosmos, Jesus…

So if your conscience allows, go and listen to “Indian Summer”* by The Doors, and give thanks to God who graces even dark people with bright beauties.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

*My wife and I danced to this song at our wedding

Categories: The Arts, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

One Breath Struggle Question for Christians

How in the world do we balance a zeal for unity among Christians while having a zeal to correct their many errors… including being too zealous in correcting their many errors?

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You’re all a beautiful thing, you ugly people 🙂

Love & Punches in Christ,

-Justin

Categories: One Breath | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

Government in the Image of the People

Bob Lonsberry WHAM 1180

Local Rochester radio talk show host Bob Lonsberry recently hung up on me on air when I suggested that Americans get the government they deserve. Bob is a professing far-right wing Republican, the kind with more kids than rooms in his house, more guns than kids, more gallons of gas in his SUV than guns, and more opinions than gallons of gas in his SUV (all in a good way). He lives in the All-American town of Mount Morris, NY, where the climate is noticeably conservative, familial, and country. So when I got on his radio show and added my two-cents about bad government, I thought I would have a new friend and ally. Bob and I share a love for fairly strict constitutionalism, as well as having strong personal faith (albeit in different faiths – evangelical and Mormon). He’s usually cool with me – we’ve even had some friendly conversation at the annual Wellsville Ridgewalk… So, why did my friend Bob end my call?

I’ll tell you what – it wasn’t a problem with philosophy of government, it was the fact that Bob believes people are basically good, and deserve good. I believe, as per the Bible, that people are basically evil, and deserve evil.

The idea that the American government has become tyrannical and corrupt in response to the corruptions and license in the hearts of the people was enough to have the good Captain Lonsberry throw me overboard.

Government of the People, Right?

Wasn’t it the Founder’s intention to give us a representative government? A government which would be of the People, for the People, and by the People? In my opinion, we have today in Washington DC and the State capitals a fairly close reflection of the governed. True, the politicians tend to be wealthier than the average citizen, but I am talking morally and ethically reflective. The American form of government creates a unique type of ruling class, “made in the image” of the people, if you will.

Not everyone, of course, is living in unrestrained debauchery as there are many noble Americans out here who work hard, love their families, accept responsibility, and fight for justice… but there are people like that in the government too. The issue is that both in the citizenry and in the government it is a small minority which truly tries to live out the best of America’s values and even less who are following and obeying Christ.

I (Sob) Love New York

For us who live in New York State, there could not be a more deserving people for the government we have in Albany. Everyone from Australia to the North Pole knows that the NYS government is the most corrupt and inefficient band of crooks there is, yet every November New Yorkers go to the polls and vote the same people in over and over and over.

Ummm… Please don’t ask me that.

Just take a glance at the photographs of any random legislator in Albany – it’s like they have “guilty” written all over their faces. They know they are criminals and derelicts, but they are getting paid well to do it with very little chance of consequences.

But the point here is not to bash our government – I only hope to point to the correlation here. Look at what the Word of God says in a Proverbs 28:2 warning:

When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue.”

Do you see the order? When the people are wicked, the government grows. Bad people, bad government. This is my attempt at a rebuke to the militant political wing of American Christianity. Stop focusing on the government as the disease. The enormous, foolish, wicked bureaucracy that rules America is a response to the unfettered sinfulness of her people. If the churches would perhaps stop entertaining themselves to death, stop trying to be “relevant,” stop trying to fit in and impress the culture – and return to the bare naked old gospel proclamation, return to the simplicity of Christ crucified, buried, resurrected, and soon to appear in glory, and return to our commission to make disciples… then maybe we would over a very long time begin to turn the tide on what has happened to our once great nation.

We otherwise continue to rail against the symptoms of the disease, i.e. Big Brother, and look away from the bacterial infection in the hearts and homes of the people. That way of thinking will wipe the snot off the nose and let the national body continue to die her slow, grotesque death.

For Bob, I’m sorry to say, the hope and belief that there is some inherent goodness in the American people is an empty hope – the goodness and light and peace this wonderful country has had is all, I repeat, all due to the grace and to the glory of God Almighty.

Thanks for reading,

-Adam

Categories: Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Poem: Come Quickly, Jesus

Northern world, hemisphere,

Something changing, spring is near.

Winter’s old and bony gray,

Will be gone now any day.

Could this be the one…

primavera ultima,

The Spring of springs – when He comes?

Could this be the time…

dia de gracia

The King of kings – Triumphant One!

Coming to free the captive people,

Coming to judge the restless evil…

Could this be His time of return?

April, May, and maybe no June?

Jesus, come, come quickly Lord.

A la tierra tuya, Lord!

Your regenerating hand, upon the land

Upon Your people from Spain

to Japan…

Come quickly, Lord Jesus, please before summer.

We beg as Your bride, and as the Beloved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“…looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”

Titus 2:13-14 (NASB)

Categories: Artistic Creations | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

One Breath Prayer for Christ’s return

Precious King Jesus, we desire to see You – please return soon to claim Your people, Your cosmos, and Your glory from the jaws of Satan. Amen

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May the way you live your weekend be a blessing and a light to those around you, and may God pour out His treasures of grace on your head as you live, move, and have your being.

Categories: One Breath | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Hoarders: the Real Fear Factor

Let’s interpret the real Fear Factor on TV: Hoarders. My wife and I recently got Netflix. I have not had regular TV channels in my house for about ten years, as I have found it a monstrous waste of time and mind.

In any case, I’ve never seen 99% of the shows that most of you watch regularly. Last night we watched A&E’s “Hoarders,” and I must say I was hoardified. We watched season 1 episode 4, Jennifer&Ron/Jill. Jill especially caught my attention; a house filled with rotting and expired food. What was the issue for Jill? She had experienced times of joblessness and poverty in the past, and never, ever, ever was going to be caught without food again.

She described how she could simply not resist food sales at the grocery store, and would then fill her rooms with everything from organic chicken stock to pumpkins to jars of grain and flour, and a fridge filled with rotting meat, etc…

Ohhh, one more little thingy of butter couldn't hurt!

When the TV show arrived to help her, the psychologist on scene began to work with her on why she had to have all of this rotting food.

Over and over throughout the episode she described her tremendous fear that she may be jobless again someday, and would need a good stockpile of food to make it through. The psychologist did an admirable job convincing her to throw out some of the rotten food, and even spoke of helping her to change her behavior so she wouldn’t just fill it up again.

Now, where did I put my trust again? Can't find the darn thing.

Yet my thoughts went beeline for the Bible. From God’s perspective, what is going on with Jill? Well, simply put, she has been enslaved to her fear factor. She has a sin-nature which means she has put something else in the place of God… but for this poor lady her sin is a lot less sanitary than yours or mine. Jill does not appear to be familiar with the Providence of God – the reality that He gave her life, sustains it, and can take it away at any time. She seems to have put her trust in food which (very visually) perishes. This sad spectacle is what any one of us is really like on the inside: fearful and unbelieving in God’s goodness, seeking to protect ourselves with little defenses and tricks… but we are all under a delusion.

And what is food but only a temporary stay on an inevitable death?

Jesus said it best in a few quotes from Matthew 6:

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

Asking the Father for our food and sustenance, trusting that He is good to us and generous to give it.

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus admonishes us to have a heavenly, eternal mindset and not to be emotionally, spiritually invested in the things of earth. This life is short, and once its gone, whatever material goods we had here will be lost to us forever.

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

Worry is a lack of faith, which means we’ve put something or someone else in the place of God. To know Him is to trust Him.

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Let God be in charge of the “what ifs,” and you simply seek His kingdom and righteousness (another way of saying seek Jesus).

Let Go and Recognize God

If God wills for you to live to be 104, then you will live to be 104 by taking normal, reasonable precautions against unemployment, bad health, or house fires. If your time is through at 40, you will die at 40 with a house full of provisions, money, water filters, and guns. Nobody can extend their life a second past when God chooses to take them.

Looking at it from another biblical angle, Jill is actually better off than a neat and clean, mentally stable yuppie who has no visible problems. The yuppie is in just as much need for Christ as is Jill the hoarder, but only one of them has their sin so visibly manifested that it cannot be hidden. If sin is our greatest problem, then who would you rather be: the self-secured yuppie or the ragged, broken old lady who cannot help herself at all? I’d rather be the person who is brought to a visible reminder of how badly I need Jesus – and His Word does say in 1 Corinthians 1:

27 God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

So… for Jill, for you, and for me, will we trust in God who is the Sovereign Creator, or will we place our trust and hope in something far less worthy of our trust? Poor Jill’s faithlessness was manifest in a mental illness, and I dearly hope she finds some help and health for her mind – yet much more so, I hope that someone reaches her with the liberating, hope-filled gospel of grace so that she can be ready to die forgiven of her sin.

I hope that for you, too, my friends.

Categories: Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why Not World Peace?

Let’s interpret the lack of world peace…

I hear that all religions are essentially the same, moving us towards the same goal or god.

Is that so?

The road to world peace seems to be simply to forget our differences and all hold hands under the banner of love and mutual interest in peace. The United Nations, the World Council of Churches, the Trilateral Commission, and every college professor alive seems to all be geared towards getting everyone together under one big, happy tent of peace and endless joy. What’s the problem?

The problem is that Truth divides. Why? Truth divides because what we believe matters, immensely. Like, beyond description it matters. To compromise Truth is to lose Truth completely…

Simply put…

Let me make it as simple as possible, so simple I open myself up to seeming to be simple. It goes something like this:

All of the false, man-made religions which leave people ultimately undone by the justice of God are philosophies which keep people in the dark, including the many counterfeit forms of Christianity. Again, to put it simply: man is at war with God, and one of our favorite ways of fighting God is to create our own religious systems, to try and earn our way back to Him. This is the root of all war and strife in the world – we are fighting God so of course we fight each other. We are a warlike race. We have been so bold as to declare war on God, on His earth (through greed and environmental rape), on the animal kingdom (in misusing and depleting them), and on each other in endless wars of aggression between individuals, communities, companies, schools, states, countries, and tribes. It all originates with war against God through false religion. The simplest way to see that all false religion is truly false is to spot the common thread:

ALL OF THEM END UP SAYING IT THIS WAY: you must do something in order to get what you need, be it salvation, enlightenment, good feelings, nirvana, academic acclaim, etc etc etc whatever one may call it.

Almost there!

Are you a Buddhist? Roman Catholic? Jehovah’s Witness? Atheist? Self-religionist? Muslim?

I'm sure we're all going to end up in the same place by different paths! Yeah... about that destination.

Agnostic, Pentecostal, hedonist, Baptist, dog, cat, or mouse who thinks you must do something in order to earn something from God or to earn your goodness in the world? (Hint: we all are like this by nature – self-deceived and dead). You (and I) need a strong gospel…

There is only ONE TRUTH, ONE WAY out of all of the religions, philosophies, ideas, and daydreams – the way of Jesus Christ. In Him, and in Him alone is there a different conclusion from all the others. In Him it is not you must do in order to get what you need. No.

In Jesus it is simply: He has done it all for you. He accomplished it…

He has decided to create, He has decided to initiate, He has built and made

and started and begun and assured

ALL

that is necessary to bring men out of darkness, out of rebellion against God, out of their deep, dark pits of sin,

HE

has done it, start to finish – it is accomplished, it is finished, τετελεσται, and He has guaranteed our perfect, seamless, airtight, complete redemption by dying in the place of the enemies of God.

HE

raised Himself from the dead three days later, He then ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, ruling the cosmos in Sovereign power. No one will unseat Jesus from the throne of the universe. No one will defeat Him. No one can fool Him –

-He is God-

So… simply put, it is an insult to God to claim any contribution to your religion or salvation. All we can do is receive what Christ has done for us on the Roman death cross in dying in our place for our sins – yet even that trusting in Jesus and receiving His payment for our sins is a gift of grace to us who on our own are totally incapable of believing in Him. That’s how bad off we are. That’s how bad we need a Savior. We need Jesus.

Paid in full. Nothing to add.

And… it is therefore impossible to have peace with those who do not believe in these teachings of Christ’s Sovereignty and perfect gift of salvation which cannot be earned, cannot be bought. There you have it, world peace is only possible through all knees bowing to Him, the King. So, what are you waiting for?

The alternative is no world peace

…as humanity struggles to be king through false religion and individual accomplishment… Oh, and to those of you who believe that abolishing religion is the key to world peace, I’m right there with you. I’m with you as long as the we agree the Abolisher is Jesus, and He has promised to do so when He returns in glory to announce the consummation of His eternal, unchallenged reign. When that happens, all falsehood will cease, everyone who has loved Him will have peace, and all who have set-up a religion or philosophy which is against Him will then lose everything in judgment… just to put it simply.

Which kingdom are you in?

Life or Death

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Comparative Religions, The Message of the Bible, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

One Breath Prayer for a Saturday Morn

“We bless thee our Creator Preserver Benefactor Teacher for opening to us the volume of nature where we may read and consider thy works.”

Valley of Vision

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I hope your Saturday is filled with the lightness of joy no matter what circumstances you encounter. Gratitude is the helium for that balloon.

Thankful,

-Justin

Categories: Meaning Woven into Nature, One Breath | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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